Cars are sold from a small business on Joe Frank Harris Parkway but the titles never come. The car experiences mechanical problems. Just ask Miranda Smith.
The 25-year-old mother of two called The Daily Tribune News Friday after a story exposed reports of issues with North Georgia Financing Company.
On April 26, Smith purchased a Chevy Monte Carlo for $9,000 from Terry Spruell. After 30 days she still had no tag. The car was in and out of the shop for repairs.
“I told Terry, I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore, just give me my money back, take the car,’” she said. “My finance company was wanting to back out of the deal because they had already paid him off for the car and still didn’t have a title.”
After an accident weeks ago, Smith paid North Georgia Financing a visit on July 8 only to find the business closed.
“So now I have nothing,” she said. “My car is not registered, no title for it. I’m out of money, my finance company is out of their money. My car is sitting in an impound lot. ... Technically, I should still be paying on this car, but to freeze my account for a car I can’t drive, I voluntarily put it in an impound lot.”
On Wednesday, two customers filed reports with Cartersville Police Department about their failure to receive titles from the business. On Thursday, two more car buyers reported the runaround from the company. On Friday, another car buyer reported she had not received her title as well.
In each of the cases, the customer had received numerous tags and empty promises of a title that never came.
An employee with Keith Russell Automotive next door said the operation being run out of 1450-A Joe Frank Harris Parkway involved cars belonging to someone else.
“Here’s what they do: He has cars, and you go to buy a car. You pay him a down payment and you get your financing, and he gets your title. But the cars, a lot of them, actually belong to somebody else so you can’t get no clear title,” he said.
When asked what she believes was happening at North Georgia Financing, Smith said, “Honestly, I can’t put my finger on it.”
Smith, however, said she became so concerned over her vehicle’s history she contacted police to do a vehicle identification number check.
“We thought for a while that my car might be stolen,” she said, “because I did a title search on it and my car hasn’t been registered or titled ... in over six years. My car is only seven years old.”
The employee at Keith Russell Automotive said Spruell told him almost two weeks ago the business had encountered trouble.
“He said, ‘I’m having a little bit of financial trouble.’ He said, ‘We did something illegal that we shouldn’t be doing,’” the man said. “A lot of people have been down here looking for him, the police. I mean, he’s going to jail.”
Posted on the door Friday were notices from the landlord and a notice of eviction from magistrate court. A phone number matching Spruell’s Kennesaw address has been disconnected.
Smith said she had talked with other customers and police advised her the issue was now a criminal matter.
“Criminal doesn’t solve my issue. Criminal will get me a title to a car that is going to need a new motor,” she said.
When Smith went to purchase her first car three months ago, she never imagined the nightmare it would become.
“Terry seemed like your stand-up car salesman. ... I never once thought that this would be what happened,” she said.
For others looking to buy a vehicle, Smith’s words of wisdom are simple: “The only advice I have is in addition to doing Carfax, you might want to do a criminal background on these people you are buying cars from.”
“I don’t understand how you could do this,” she said. “How do you go home at night knowing what you’ve done and the damage you’ve caused to so many people and that be OK with you?”